First Prunes contract up on eBay

A collection consisting of U2’s first demo reel and the Virgin Prunes 1979 development contract has been put on auction on eBay. The item can be yours now for $35,000.00. At the time of writing, no bids have been made.

“This collection consists in an original demo tape from U2’s first recording session with Paul McGuinness [November 1 1978]; manuscript lyric sheets in Bono’s hand and typed lyric sheets for songs on that recording session; a set of contact proofs for an early promotional photo shoot with the band, circa 1978-9; and a contract signed by the Virgin Prunes for a development deal with World Showcase Music in 1979.”

The document is signed “Fionan Martin Hanvey” and “Derek Karl Rowen bang”, 2 pp, legal folio, Beverly Hills, CA, January 12, 1979. It is a development agreement between the World Showcase Music and the Virgin Prunes.

The origin of the items is detailed in documents that come with the lot. They were given to Lewis V. Mitchell, a former principal with KROQ. He was later to run into legal trouble and pawned the items for cash.


Starting bid: US $18,000.00
Price: US $35,000.00


This collection consists in an original demo tape from U2’s first recording session with Paul McGuinness [November 1 1978]; manuscript lyric sheets in Bono’s hand and typed lyric sheets for songs on that recording session; a set of contact proofs for an early promotional photo shoot with the band, circa 1978-9; and a contract signed by the Virgin Prunes for a development deal with World Showcase Music in 1979. Here are detailed descriptions and photographs of the items:
1. One reel to reel tape, circa 1978, BASF 13cm reel and case, bearing “Trend Studios Dublin” label, listing artist/client as “Paul McGuinness” and Producer as “Barry Devlin.” Titles are “1. Street Missions 2. Shadows and Tall Trees 3. The Fool.” It is further marked as “Stereo/ NAB/ Copy/ NonDolby” at base.

Following their first breakout success at the Harp Lager festival in Limerick in March 1978, the band U2 won 500 pounds and were offered the chance to produce a rough demo tape for CBS records. The effort was a one-take affair and came to nought. However, in May they were introduced to Paul McGuinness, who agreed to become their manager. Their first official demo recording session was set for November 1st 1978 at Keystone Studios, with Barry Devlin of Horslips as engineer. They recorded three tracks, “Street Missions,” “Shadows and Tall Trees,” and “The Fool.” McGuinness would later that year peddle this demo tape to several labels in London without much success. After more local touring they ultimately returned to CBS Ireland and produced their first single, U2 Three. After a number of good reviews and a trip to London, by January 1980, they were signed by Island Records.

This is one of the original demo tapes produced from their first recording session of November 1st 1978, produced by McGuinness and Devlin. It bears a contemporary label indicating it was produced at Trend Studios, a reputed duplication house in Dublin, probably at McGuinness’s behest in preparation for his trip to London at the end of 1978 (hence the attribution of “McGuinness” as both Artist and Client). The tape itself contains the three songs performed by the band during this first demo session and is consistent with the known bootleg renditions of this historic recording date, but of a much better recording quality. McGuinness probably had fewer than 3 or 4 original demo tapes produced in preparation for his London trip as he shopped them around to the various labels, and this is the first one we know of to have come up for auction. Whether any others have survived is unknown [the recent exhibition at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, drawn from the band’s personal collection, did not include one.]

2. Paul Hewson [Bono]. Holograph Manuscript, 2 pp, legal folio, n.p., circa 1978, on onionskin paper, being lyrics to “Shadows and Tall Trees,” leaves creased and toned. Later manuscript copyright notice by Bono in a later hand (“c/1979 Paul Vox”) at foot of p. 2. With annotations and corrections.

3. 2 Typed Manuscripts, 3 pp, legal folio, n.p., circa 1978, being lyrics to “Street Missions” and “The Fool,” leaves creased and thumbed. Manuscript copyright notice by Bono in a later hand (“c1979 Paul Vox, Adam Clayton, David Edge” and “c1979 Paul Vox”) at foot. “Street Missions” with pencil corrections.

It is well known that Paul Hewson adopted the sobriquet “Bono Vox” in the late 1970s. It is less well known that he initially vascillated between adopting the name “Paul Vox” or simply “Bono” in 1978-79, obviously opting for the latter by the time of U2 Three. Here is a quote from Gavin Friday about those early days: “And I remember once, Bono was going through some way out trip in his head, wanted to be cool, and he kept on calling himself Paul Vox, and we said, Don’t be stupid, Bono’s a really good name – Bono Vox. And eventually what’s natural you just have to accept”. [1982, From “U2 Info Service, by Geoff Parkyn”]. As Bono has signed these lyric sheets as “Paul Vox,” they must date to 1978-79.

Furthermore, these are manuscript & typescript lyrics for the band’s first three recorded songs performed on the demo tape listed above, and are likely early drafts, and possibly prepared for that historic session.

In particular, both the lyrics for “Shadows and Tall Trees” and “The Fool” in these manuscripts bear interesting differences from the lyrics as they were finally recorded, indicating that they are early drafts of these songs. For example, “STT” begins here as “Stalking the cold restless streets at night/” vs. “Back to the cold restless streets at night/” on Boy. There are additional interesting alterations from the final version. “The Fool” is significantly different, with the opening stanza: “Alive in a n’ocean/ A world of glad eyes/insane/Walk a wall backways/It’s all just a shameful /game.” This is significantly different from the lyrics as recorded by discographies and as they appear on Rarities: “Alive in an ocean/ A world that I didn’t see/ I walk the world backways/ It’s always the same ballgame.” Such alterations appear throughout the manuscript, strongly indicating that these rough lyric sheets, with emendations and notes, were produced in preparation for their first recording session with McGuinness and Devlin, now enshrined on the demo tape listed in 1., and in bootleg versions of that session. In any event, early manuscript material by the band, especially lyric sheets, are virtually unobtainable.

4. Original contact proofs of an early promotional photo shoot with the band, circa 1978-9, featuring 64 separate photographic images of the band members posing individually and together, with several marked as selects. It is uncertain whether any of these images have been published, or who is the photographer of record, but the outfits, instruments and age of the band are consistent with other contemporary promotional images reproduced in Bill Graham’s U2: The Early Days, and other sources. In all, a fascinating and largely unknown visual document of the band on the verge of their breakout success.

5. Document Signed (“Fionan Martin Hanvey” and “Derek Karl Rowen bang”), 2 pp, legal folio, Beverly Hills, CA, January 12, 1979, being a development agreement between the World Showcase Music and the Virgin Prunes, leaves creased, toned, thumbed.

The storied early history of U2 and the Virgin Prunes is well known, but this contract indicates the early promise of the latter in securing a development deal in Los Angeles as early as January 1979, a full year prior to U2’s original record deal with Island in 1980. It is signed by “Gavin Friday” [Fionan Martin Hanvey] and “Guggi” [Derek Rowen] of the band, who were also key figures in Paul Hewson’s early development as a musician. Dick Evans, The Edge’s brother and an original member of The Hype [pre-U2], founded the Virgin Prunes with Friday and Guggi in 1977.


These items come with significant supporting documents outlining their history, from which the following details can be pieced together. It appears they were gifted to one Lewis V. Mitchell of Los Angeles, likely between 1979, when the Virgin Prunes put together a development deal in LA, and 1981, when U2 performed their first West Coast gig at the Reseda Country Club in March 1981. KROQ in Los Angeles was an early supporter and aggressive promoter of the 1981 concert, and Mr. Mitchell, apparently a principal with KROQ, was rewarded with some kind of (unspecified) development relationship with the band, according to the correspondence in this file. However, any such agreement was quickly and formally dissolved, as Mr. Mitchell and U2 parted ways. However, Mr. Mitchell would later run into legal trouble of some kind with other business developments, and was apparently forced to liquidate his assets due to an impending legal suit. He apparently pawned the U2 items listed above for collateral [a copy of receipt included], and later engaged in lengthy correspondence with the pawnshop owner to retrieve the U2 items [copy included]. This correspondence gives some interesting clues to later developments, including attempts to approach the band’s management in the early 1990s and sell back the demo tape and lyrics for $35,000. One letter lays out the details:

“I finally broke down and got informal word to U-2… I have made it clear in my outline to U-2 that this request is in no way a contradiction of my 1979 release of our contract: When, bogged down with the KROQ/FCC hearings – faced with not being able to give them any further attention for the next year or so I gave them an unconditional release; wished them well and asked for nothing in return (For either the release or any of the preliminary work I’d done in getting them set up…). On the contrary, I have explained to them in some detail how the pressures resulting from the KBBL, etc. and the Riklis default have caused me to place virtually every asset I have in hock. And that one of those assets was my copy of their first recording session; photo session, contract and other memorabilia… that same is part of a cross collateralized loan and my fear is that if I don’t redeem same those items could end up (Not just foreclosed on but) on the auction block and in unscrupulous hands; where the temptation to do—at minimum mass bootlegs, would be heavy!…”

These attempts to sell back the archive to U2 or its representatives were ultimately not successful [a fax to that effect is included], and in the end the entire archive was consigned with Butterfields auction house in Los Angeles in 2003, where I bought them at auction [I will include a copy of the catalog for the winning bidder]. Butterfields is the leading West Coast auctioneer, and this collection was thoroughly vetted and authenticated by their specialists, but were not researched thoroughly. For example, the auction house did not identify the demo tape as that of the first recording session of November 1st, 1978. Furthermore, as part of a Books & Manuscripts sale, they were also not placed with other prominent rock & roll memorabilia.

I had intended on keeping these for posterity, as they will surely only increase in value. I have been petitioned by a leading auction house in London to sell them there in the fall, but that will require waiting almost 8 months for a sale, and so I am going to attempt this route first. If I do not find a buyer here I will reconsider my options.

I reserve the right to consider reasonable offers before the auction’s end. This is a no reserve auction. Considering that limited edition lps and cds from U2’s early years can sell for $5000+, these one of a kind foundational documents from the birth of the band are a bargain at my opening price.

A truly landmark collection. Best of luck!”